The highest fourth innings target score overhauled by India at Bangalore is 207 against Australia in 2010. New Zealand’s challenge is past 240 and anything above 250 would certainly be a huge psychological boost for them, writes Nishad Pai Vaidya.
The see-saw battle at Bangalore continued as both India and New Zealand fought hard on a sporting wicket. Prior to the game, the curator at the Chinnaswamy Stadium had said that the surface would produce an even contest between bat and ball – a promise the pitch has lived up to. The balance tilted in favour of New Zealand at the end of the first day, both teams shared the spoils on the second, but India are marginally ahead at the end of a fascinating Day Three. A total of 14 wickets fell on the day and even though India may be the happier side, New Zealand have a fair chance given the performance of their seamers in the first innings.
The most encouraging thing about India’s bowling was that the bowlers who didn’t perform in the first innings produced the goods in the second. Umesh Yadav and Ravichandran Ashwin made amends for their lacklustre first innings performances by picking up wickets at regular intervals in the second innings to dent New Zealand’s charge. Yadav did the damage with the new ball, while Ashwin ran through the middle-order with his bag of tricks.
In the first innings, Yadav was too wayward and paid the price for it. Even in the second essay, his economy rate of 4.42 was too high for the liking, but more importantly he picked up two early wickets. One could see how effective he became when he started hitting the right areas more consistently. As a result his pace became more lethal and got through Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum. However, the spell he bowled to Kruger van Wyk later in the day was encouraging. In a typical fast-bowler-like swagger, he pitched it short a number of times and then tried to York him.
On a relatively older track, Ashwin looked more threatening as his variations spun a web around the batsmen. The straighter ones were particularly effective as most batsmen found it difficult to pick him. He picked the crucial wickets of James Franklin, Daniel Flynn and van Wyk – men who threatened to fight and extend the Kiwi challenge. Ashwin had good support from Ojha who nailed the dangerman – Ross Taylor.
Through all that, it was Tim Southee who stole the show. For a fast bowler to pick seven wickets in an innings in Indian conditions is truly a phenomenal achievement. He was consistent throughout as he hit the right areas on or around the off-stump. What is interesting to note is that he overpitched on only three occasions in his 24 overs – an indicator of remarkable consistency. He dismissed five off India’s top seven batsmen and then cleaned up the tail.
While Southee hogged the applause, one mustn’t forget the contributions of Doug Bracewell and Trent Boult. Bracewell accounted for the big fish – Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar and impressed with his line and length. Boult may have only one wicket to show, but was bowling a probing line to the right handers with the ball leaving them after pitching around off.
India would want to wrap up things fast and get on with the run-chase. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Team India would be aware that the highest fourth innings target score overhauled by India at Bangalore is 207 against Australia in 2010. New Zealand’s challenge is past 240 and anything above 250 would certainly be a huge psychological boost for New Zealand. India would certainly have to bat exceptionally well as Southee and Company would be riding high on confidence after a good show in the first innings. Everything points to an exciting finish.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44 )